“A Human With A Heart of Gold”
A Tribute to Ganesh Bahadur Shrestha

Deep Lamichhane

“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
When Hemanta recently asked me to fine-tune the transcripts for the GBS Foundation web site in honor of his father, Ganesh Bahadur Shrestha, I had heartily agreed to do so for two reasons. Firstly, I consider Hemanta a decent individual, even though I have not had the opportunity to know him as much as I would like to. Our relationship started several years ago as acquaintances and has since begun developing into a strong friendship. Secondly, at that moment, I had some time in hand and was, therefore, more than happy to apply it in a creative manner.

All this changed soon after I first read the initial draft on the life story of Ganesh Bahadur Shrestha, a human with a heart of gold. I was not only impressed by his sensitivity to the needs of the less privileged but also by his steadfast belief that education was the key to the world of opportunities. Perhaps it was the fact that he became fatherless at a very early age that may have forced him to mature much more wisely than most of us. And perhaps, as a result, he was able to experience and perceive first-hand what poverty really meant. I have no answers to these assumptions. But, even without yet having had the honor of meeting him personally, I do certainly know that he is one of those rare breed of men who are sent to earth destined to help those who do not have the means to achieve their true potential in order to make an impact in their own lives as well as in the lives of others. What, therefore, started out as mere editing of some transcripts became a mission for me. By the time I had completed my task, I felt a sense of honor at being associated, even if indirectly, with a man of such dignified stature.

It is indeed inspiring to know that true emissaries of God like Ganesh Bahadur actually resides among us, even though we sadly live in a world where a man’s standing is measured more by the wealth he accumulates and the materialistic objects he flaunts for others around him to see and envy.  As Nepalis, in particular, we go even further in our relationships with the Divine in order to make our earthly wishes fulfilled. We no longer just pray to our Gods for spiritual guidance but, far more frequently, we have the audacity to bargain with Him/Her for personal gains in the name of  “Barta” (Fasting) and “Bhaakal” (Vows). We promise Him/Her a bhaale (rooster) if He/She will ensure that we succeed in passing our academic hurdles. Likewise, we are willing to sacrifice a bokaa (male goat) if He/She will oblige us with a child, preferably a male at that. We are also willing to spent lavishly in igniting “Laakh Batti” (Hundred Thousand Lights) in the name of our Lords, solely to guarantee that our lives hereafter is just as comfortable and cushy as it is here on earth. As an added bonus, we also use these ceremonies to regale our kith and kin with sumptuous feasts so that we may also be able to display our financial well-being. Meanwhile, as we continue to live this decadent life of self-indulgence, we rarely give a moment’s thought towards the well-being of others around us who may be far less fortunate than we ever were. Even when we do make that infrequent effort at giving, we are often in fact secretly, and selfishly, applying for a visa to heaven. Can this be called pure generosity or is it in actual fact merely a self-centered act of kindness designed to eventually boomerang and benefit ourselves?

In such a deceitful and murky environment, someone like Ganesh Bahadur shines like a beacon of hope, assuring and reminding us that the required ethical values and moral fiber for the existence of our society has not yet become completely extinct. There are no doubt many among us who have the means to give away a part of our wealth to charitable causes. Most of us, however, defile the true covenant of giving as inscribed in our ancient scriptures by seeking personal fame and recognition in return. We knowingly or unknowingly forget that the art of true giving lies in the fact that nothing whatsoever should be expected in return. To me, this is what makes Ganesh Bahadur Shrestha a truly enlightened and religious individual. He gives simply because he can and  he wants to, and not because he wants something in return as pay-back.  He seems so engrossed in his charitable works that being in the limelight for doing so is very likely to be the furthest thing in his mind. As such, whether he goes to the temples to pray each day or not is irrelevant. He has, after all, found his God and he is also obviously aware of His true will. “Barta”,Bhakal”, and “Laakh Batti” rites will not necessarily help enlighten him any further. After spending almost all of his adult life helping others in his community, whatever caste or creed they may have belonged to, he does not need a shrine or a temple to communicate with God. He simply lives and breathes it as if it was  the substance  and sustenance of his daily routine.

Most of us will never be able to measure ourselves to Ganesh Bahadur Shrestha’s caliber. However, we can certainly be associated with his good work by contributing what we can to further enhance the causes towards which he has dedicated his entire adult life. If you are reading this appeal right now, you cannot deny that you are far more fortunate than millions of our Nepali brothers and sisters who struggle  every day from dawn to dusk just to make ends meet and to provide for themselves and their families. Because of our own improved standing in society, we simply take for granted the basic human needs such as food, shelter and access to education. And, while many among us may perhaps even consider these needs as our God-given rights, we either tend to forget or, even worse, pretend to look the other way when many others around us have to toil every day just to put one square meal on their plates. Therefore, I implore you to donate what you can to the GBS Foundation. It may not immediately guarantee you a resident visa to heaven but you will at least be able to acquire the necessary passport,  which is at least a step in the right direction. All you will then have to do will be to continue applying your resolve to help the needy and, sooner or later, the visa that you seek may ultimately be granted. Obviously, I cannot and do not claim to be any kind of an oracle, but I am certain that, if you truly follow your heart and do the right deed, you are more than likely to at least not suffer the wrath of your God. As Albert Einstein once opined, “The value of man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving”. I don’t think we need the brilliance of this great genius to understand the moral behind his statement, do we? So, if you have not started already, begin your journey of giving  now! Please!

January, 2009
Bernardsville, New Jersey, USA